Earwigging is lobbying. It is similar to the efforts a lobbyist makes to sway legislator to the lobbyist's point of view. It is private and it is personal. More often than not it does not involve bribery. And, of course it does not have to involve bribery.
A few days ago, a New York lawyer, David Boies, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reporters said this:
I tried some cases before Mississippi state court judges who were just great,and I also tried cases in front of Mississippi judges who were just terrible. There is undoubtedly some real corruption – where a judge does something for money or favors. But I think that is a very small problem in Mississippi, and a tiny problem in most places. The bigger problem is where judges do things because they know the people, because they like the people, because they’re comfortable with the people. That’s a much more difficult thing to get your arms around, partly because its human nature. And the problem’s not unique to Mississippi. [Emphasis added.]
To earwig means, in its essence, to play on the human frailty of liking people whom we think are our friends, people we feel comfortable with, our hunting buddies, our golf buddies, our lawyer group buddies, the "brothers" in those "fraternities" of which we like to think we are a part.